October, the month when London suddenly turns into a tapestry of mahogany hues, with spectacular leaf-crunching walks across the capital’s parks and the beckoning of warm chestnuts and toasted marshmallows. October is also the month when London’s cultural scene really seems to be finally coming out of lockdown. Get your boots on, dust those scarves off and enjoy some of these top things to do in London this October.
Art and Exhibition
The National Gallery’s new exhibition Poussin and the Dance will cast the French Classical artist in a completely new light, showing how he grappled with the challenges of arresting movement and capturing the expressive potential of the body. For the first time in its 121-year history, the Wallace Collection will lend Nicolas Poussin’s painting Dance to the Music of Time. Book here.
A first-hand account of The Battle of Trafalgar will be revealed to the public for the first time in a new exhibition, Fighting Talk: One man’s journey from abandonment to Trafalgar, opening at the Foundling Museum on 15 October Through the lens of the eighteenth-century working class boy George King, visitors will discover King’s story as he describes being press-ganged into the Navy, surviving brutal and bloody battles that left him traumatised, meeting enslaved people in South Carolina and letting his hair down at the theatre in London’s West End. Book here.
Step back into a dangerous world of plots, espionage and treachery to explore the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots in their own words. On at the British Library from 8 October to 20 February 2022. Book here.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, a life-size, up-close, never-before-seen perspective of the masterpiece is coming to London. Book here. To 16 January 2022.
Sotheby’s Institute’s Programme Director David Bellingham takes an intriguing look at famous fakes and forgeries – and the problems these cause for the art world – in an online talk with Art Scapades. 6 October. Book here.
Housing iconic photographs, the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition takes fans behind-the-scenes of key moments in the film series, from Harry’s first day at Hogwarts through to the Battle of Hogwarts. Located in Covent Garden, the venue is also home to London’s only bottled Butterbeer bar. Book here.
A new major exhibition will reveal the ongoing impact of the Port of London on our capital city, its people, design, culture, prosperity and global position. The exhibition will trace more than 200 years of extraordinary experiences and intense activity on a river whose continued importance in the 21st century. London: Port City runs from 22 October to 8 May 2022. Entry is free but book here.
Young Poland is the first major exhibition to explore the decorative arts and architecture of an extraordinary cultural movement that flourished in response to Poland’s invasion and occupation by foreign powers. From furniture to Christmas decorations, intricate textiles to delicate paper cuttings, this landmark survey spans five galleries and brings together over 150 works, most of which have never travelled outside of Poland. 9 October to 30 January 2022. Free entry.
Internationally renowned artist and sculptor Zadok Ben-David brings his award-winning work to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens. The exhibition includes Blackfield, a breathtaking installation containing over 17,000 steel etched flowers and assembled entirely by hand. Included with entry to the gardens. 16 October to 27 March 2022. Book here.
Pablo Bronstein: Hell in its Heyday will present a never before seen body of work by prominent British-Argentinian contemporary artist Pablo Bronstein. Created especially for Sir John Soane’s Museum, a series of large-scale watercolours will take visitors on a tour of hell in a nostalgic and ironic representation of the last two centuries of progress. 6 October to 2 January 2022. Free but book here.
It’s your last chance to see Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where you can see some of the most famous royal paintings in one place until the National Portrait Gallery reopens in 2023. Closes 31 October.
Tickets to the Almeida’s production of Macbeth with Saoirse Ronan are close to impossible to get but you could try your luck here.
Matthew Bourne’s new ballet opens at Sadler’s Wells this month. The Midnight Bell explores the underbelly of 1930s London life, where ordinary people emerge from cheap boarding houses nightly to pour out their passions, hopes and dreams in the pubs and bars of fog-bound Soho and Fitzrovia. Book here.
Kew Gardens invites visitors to immerse themselves in the art, plants and culture of Japan with a brand-new autumn festival, The Japan Festival. At its heart is a large-scale artistic installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota, titled One Thousand Springs. Renowned for her vast, room-spanning webs of thread installations, Shiota’s piece will be suspended from the roof of the Temperate House. 2 to 31 October. Book here.
Join Tasha Marks and Two Temple Place’s Head of Exhibitions Rebecca Hone, for a multi-sensory exploration of the building, delving into its layered histories and celebrating the craftsmanship at the heart of this stunning neo-Gothic mansion. Included in this 1hr tour is a new sound, scent and video installation and a special Two Temple Place-inspired cocktail created by Tasha Marks. 6 and 7 October. Book here.
Strawberry Hill House & Garden is hosting its third Flower Festival this October. Horace Walpole’s villa will once again provide a gorgeous, gothic backdrop to showcase floral designs with all its colour, drama, opulence, light and shadow at this atmospheric time of year. Book here.
Experience the rare opportunity to experience Chiswick House at night with a special evening of workshops and performances after dark. Includes live acoustic music in the House, followed by a DJ set by Peter Adjaye in the Garden Pavilion. 8 October. Book here.
East London art deco venue Troxy has unveiled a substantial restoration project with a brand-new stage enabling larger productions, a restored foyer and new facilities for visitors. The venue has an extensive list of events throughout the autumn and beyond, including music, comedy and Halloween lates. Book here.
The luxury interiors brand OKA is hosting a two-day pop-up at Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell this October 8 and 9. As well as gorgeous interiors, there will be workshops from the likes of Fiona Leahy, lampshade painting with Hum London and faux flower arranging masterclasses from Willow Crossley. It’s free to visit but if you want to book an event, follow this link.
Opera and Classical Music
Join one of the world’s greatest mezzos, Joyce DiDonato, at the Barbican on 26 October. The programme includes Haydn, Mahler, Handel and Berlioz. Book here.
Open the cabinet of operatic curiosities and delve into arias with mezzo-soprano Joanna Harries and the Opera Prelude pianist as they peruse the treasure trove of masterpieces from 400 years of opera. Expect some Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi, Berlioz, Donizetti, Mussorgsky and more. 12 October. Book here.
Join Southbank’s Sinfonia Baroque for a musical Grand Tour across Europe as part of the London Handel Festival. The concert will feature a collection of Baroque gems by the likes of Handel, Telemann, Rameau and Corelli whilst making stops in England, France, Italy and Germany. 8 October at St John’s Smith Square. Book here.
The Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Academy of Ancient Music return to Cadogan Hall for an evening of the finest Baroque choral music. The programme includes Bach and Handel. 21 October. Book here.
Out of Towners
The Oxford Lieder Festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary this autumn. Celebrating the magical art of song, an array of artists will appear in more than 80 events, encompassing the great song cycles of Schubert and Schumann, the riches of fin-de-siècle Paris, the epic landscapes of Scandinavia and the vibrant sphere of American song. World-leading singers appearing at the Festival include Ian Bostridge, Dame Sarah Connolly, Dietrich Henschel, Thomas Oliemans, Christoph Prégardien, Dorothea Röschmann, Carolyn Sampson, Anna Stéphany, Camilla Tilling, Robin Tritschler and Roderick Williams. On from 8 to 23 October 2021. Book here.
The Connaught, has opened up a shiny new bar, the Red Room, featuring a collection of red works by four female visionaries. Pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Ti-a Thuy Nguyen and Trina McKillen make up this carefully chosen curation, including an artwork which has, up to now, never been exhibited anywhere in the world before. The bar itself – with wine as its focus – boasts a significant collection of the world’s best reds, nodding to the bar’s name and artwork.